December 16, 2020

The Three Levers of Customer-Centric Selling

By Tom Williams, CEO, DealPoint

Every sales team says they’re customer-centric. But few truly build customer centricity into daily best practices. Those that do see their reps elevated from unknown vendor to trusted advisor, while sales velocity increases and predictability improves.

The leaders of these teams have a firm grasp on the control levers of customer-centric selling: belief, integrative conversation, and collaborative solutioning.

Belief
Any real change in rep behavior must be rooted in two beliefs: 1) that the company you work for truly delivers value, and 2) equally important, that focusing on customer success will deliver success for themselves.

You’re on your own to prove the merits of your own company, but there are many studies about the competitive advantages of customer-centric selling – not least that understanding the buyer’s priorities will automatically create a compelling event- and buyer-driven timeline for their opportunity.

There are also plenty of studies that show decisions are made emotionally, with people using facts to rationalize those decisions later. So, just as you’re appealing to the belief centers of your team, make sure you’re investing in training them around the emotional side of selling to hit those same centers in their prospects.

Integrative Conversation
Once your team believes, the next practical step toward being more customer centric is to lift their art of conversation. Take time to ingest (then digest) both words and feelings to come to a unified – or integrative – understanding of what’s really important.

Human Connections in the COVID Era

  • We’re all sick of Web meetings. So, if it’s a one-on-one call, offer a phone call where you both commit to walk around your respective blocks. Hearing the other person puff up a hill can open up conversation and stepping away from the slide presentation is almost guaranteed to make the conversation more, well…conversational.
  • It’s a lot easier to talk about other people’s problems; so, if a prospect is guarded, then ask, “How would your team describe this challenge?” to make it easier for them to open up.

Frame Discovery in Their Terms

  • Use integrative conversation to uncover the root cause of their issues. You may need to ingest a lot before you get to the heart of the issue. That’s OK. Listen, digest, then reconstruct back to them to help them understand their deeper issues.
  • No matter how much ROI you can promise, if it’s not a focus this quarter, then you’re unlikely to win attention and budget. Ask what initiatives they’re working on and connect your solution back to that priority. If you’re having difficulty making the association, ask about higher-level corporate initiatives and see if you can anchor to something there.

Co-Create a Solution
Once your reps have found both rational and emotional alignment with their prospects, it’s time to deliver results with a plan.

Heart still plays a role – since prospects have to believe they made a safe choice in trusting you – but nothing will make a prospect feel safer than knowing everyone is working from a tried-and-tested plan.

Be the Safe Path

  • Present your recommended change not as one big, grand leap of faith, but rather as a series of short, achievable milestones.
  • Introduce your team early so they know there’s a whole team behind the effort, and to facilitate smoother peer-to-peer conversations.

Be Accountable and Hold Them Accountable

  • As a customer-centric partner, you’re making promises – but it’s not one-sided. Your prospects need to make commitments, too. As a partner dedicated to their success, you have every right to hold them accountable.
  • Deliver the promises you make, and stay in contact all the way through to the day they actually realize the value you’ve promised.

Customer timelines don’t always line up with your end of quarter. As a leader, it’s your job to give your reps space to serve their customers. Let them be a partner, help them create value, and don’t let them get taken advantage of – and both sides will see real success.

Tom Williams is CEO of DealPoint. Connect with Tom by email at tom@dealpoint.io to talk about your sales process.